Optomechanics and the Impending Nanosensor Revolution

W. Hiebert
National Institute for Nanotechnology,

Keywords: NEMS, integrated photonics, NOMS, nanosensor


Convergence of NEMS with integrated photonics is poised to transform the fields of quantum information and of nanosensing. The former has attracted much of the attention while the latter may ultimately have the largest impact. Nano-optomechanical systems (NOMS), with their unparalleled displacement resolution, embody the ultimate sensitivity nanosensor, and can enable such applications as single molecule mass spectrometry. The epitome of modern chemical analysis is gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS). What if this analysis power could be lifted from the lab bench and placed in your hand? What if you could analyze your breath in a few moments for disease markers? We envision a chip with 1000s of nanosensors performing GC-MS in parallel. Our group has been laying the ground work for such a technology: we have recently proven that resonant NEMS sensitivity can be maintained in high damping conditions (such as atmospheric pressure) and we have demonstrated NOMS as part per billion detectors in GC.